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tv   Book TV  CSPAN  March 21, 2010 1:00am-2:15am EDT

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>> you said that nothing happens overnight but that it depends on the timing. how did they know this was the right time? what were the inputs of this time and sarah? >> charlottesville was a closed society in 1963. of the schools had been segregated remained largely segregated. and it really was a closed society. and i think there had been no sit in before. there were no black colleges.
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and i think the explosion of this incident may 1963 was something they really were shocked and the opposition with the nazi armbands out there and them getting their pitchers of the paper, the fear of some sort of moderate store owners who previously had said we will integrative everybody else will, they certainly saw the possibility of that happening to them. you could argue that one of the differences was that charlottesville by 1963 not does fiercely in defense of segregation as it had been. and the time was right to show them that and topple
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that with the direct action and that is the best answer i can give. . .
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it exploded across the south, so i think that you don't often know you simply have to do, to act on your principle and then share your beliefs. that he comes a social movement. but people are surprised when that happens i think. >> thank you all so much for coming tonight and for your attention and your wonderful questions. we are going to have some crazy ather coming up, so i'm glad that you all got to come out tonight. if you would help me thank andy and paul further wonderful talks. >> andrew lewis is the coeditor with julian bond of a going to sit at the welcome table, a history of the civil rights movement. he is taught at hamilton college, wesleyan university and the university of richmond. for more information visit red room.com/author/andrew b. lewis.
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>> mr. speaker on this historic day the house of representatives opens its proceedings for the first time to televise the coverage. >> 31 years ago america's cable companies created c-span as a public service. today, we have expanded your access to politics and public affairs, nonfiction books in american history through multiple platforms, television, radio and on line and cable television's latest gift, an and extensive free video archive. c-span's video library. >> an undercover journalist goes across the country doing several menial labor jobs that are filled by undocumented workers. he argues an underworld of the low minimum wage workers is needed to sustain a cheap food and delivery service lifestyle. changing hands bookstore in tempe arizona host the hour-long event. this row graham contains language some viewers may find objectionable.
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>> what i thought i would do is talk just a little bit about what led me to write this book, the sort of ideas behind me getting into it. and, like my motivations and then read a little bit from two sections of the book or go it is divided into three different sections based on they areas that i was in and was doing the work. and, then finish with a kind of what i took away from it and then open it up for questions. so, it was sort of, i don't know if you have seen the movie capote but in the movie capote is, truman capote is reading the new york times article about i think it was like a brutal murder in kansas, just sort of triggers them. he reads it and he is i know i've got to figure this out. and he figured out what happened. i had just finished writing a
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project and didn't know what i wanted to do. one of the great things about being a freelancer is that you have a lot of freedom to do what you want but when you finish a project, the national raj at, you suddenly are back where you started having no idea what you wanted to do and with no boss to tell you what you should be doing it can be very bank stitch i was in my living room and reading the article in the times, and the article was about a hog slaughterhouse in north carolina, and there had been an immigration raid, and so are lots of more than 1000 latino immigrants in the slaughterhouse took off. i think they only arrested 12 or so. but, sort of the workers left in mass and suddenly the plant had figured out how to recruit many more u.s. citizens. it shouldn't have been too hard because the wages in the area
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paid a lot better than what anyone else could find. it was above minimum wage, but in the piece, they found that the native workers, the u.s. citizens that were doing the work had much higher turnover rates and they talked about-- you can imagine with hogs, they are big and in the work was very nauseating but also their hands would be very swollen and they just, they were kind of dropping like flies. so, what i thought about first of all was i had read about immigrants for a number of years and i thought, i realized they didn't have the good sense. i would interview people but didn't have the good sense of what it might be to do this. i read articles like the hog slaughterhouse sounds terrible but i would like to know more about that and also when i realized there were these raids going on, it might be an opportunity for me to get hired.
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at that point it is out of step. it sounds like a good idea, but who is going to hire me. what i decided was to try to spend a year going from various places in industries that are very reliant on immigrants, both legal immigrants and undocumented immigrants to try to get a better sense of what the work is like. the other great thing that i was excited about was not only being able to delve into this work in a way that i wouldn't have access to otherwise. if i went to a chicken plant like the chicken plant i worked at in. [roll call] alabama and said, i am sure we are on the same page and there a lot of people but no what goes on behind this chicken house that slaughters 1.5 million birds a week. please let me document what happens here. then i wouldn't have had any problem being honest but i knew that they would have a problem
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with that so i realized i would have to go undercover. and, i also realize that i going undercover not only would i get a good sense of what the work is like in a way that i wouldn't have identified myself as a journalist but the ways in which i get to know coworkers. for an example, the plant i was working at in alabama, it was guatemalan immigrants, maximum immigrants and then whites and blacks. i could have sat down with workers in journalist and said, tell me about race relations in this town. and gotten responses. or i could have done what i did, which was do the work, hang out in the break rooms, listen to how people talk to each other and just sort of be a worker and hopefully get a much more candid sense of what was happening. so i went undercover. the final thing that got me excited about this project was, i tried not to watch too much and i succeeded in not watching
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much cable news. but when i see it, what really strikes me is that so much of the discussion about immigrants in so many of the people that are angry and wanted to keating, they are so are away from what they are talking about. the story of immigration is a story of coming and working hard not just to better yourself but it is really why i am here and probably why a lot of you are here, because it people thinking about how their kids lives are going to be better. it has been sort of-- i see the word horror over there but horrifying/intriguing. i have done a couple of talkshow things like on cable news, where you just realize how you are in a manhattan studio like 30 rock and it is their condition and you have guys making strong statements about buying this and that from immigration. and you have no idea what you are talking about, do you? i thought it would be great to
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get as close as possible and describe what the work would be like, not editorialize too much and not be a pundit. so, the first place i went when i was trying to figure out what jobs i wanted to do in where i wanted to do them is, i figured farm work with be a nice place to start because i am from california and i remember driving along the coast in california and looking out and seeing people picking strawberries or doing let let us. when i drove past it look like a foreign world to me and i knew i had no idea-- we all know the work is hard, but we don't, it didn't feel like very many americans have a good sense of what it would be like to actually do farm work. and i learned that when i was looking to do work, it was in late fall of 2007, that yuma, arizona -- make anyone been to
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yuma, arizona? it is very hot and humid in arizona. and, it is the one place during the winter where it is warm enough to actually grow and harvest let us. for much of the ear let us comes from salinas, california but in the winter it all sort of shifts to yuma, so about 98% of iceberg lettuce, the u.s. and canada consumes in the winter months is all coming from yuma. i also learned that they needed -- they had a labor shortage so that became my first sort of job and i moved to yuma. kind of the piece about the book that made me very anxious always was, i was moving somewhere where he didn't have any connections are no guarantee of getting a job. each place could have been a total bust. but, they hired me. and so, the first piece i wanted to read was about a section in
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doing let us work. i have to say that let us by far, i worked harvesting let us for dole for two months. i try to do each job for two months just because i figured, i am not walking in the shoes of immigrants. i am like visiting for a very short time and very different. i have much more options. i have more money and i went to college and they speak english, so i'm trying to be clear up front that this is not me walking in their shoes. it is sort of me hanging around a little bit and trying to get a little bit of a sense of what the work is liking getting a sense of who the people are. so two months was my goal. i will definitely go to my grave as one of my produce physical compliments-- accomplishment surviving in the lettuce fields because it was so physically demanding that there is also a real sense of camaraderie and working outdoors that i really enjoyed.
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this section is towards the end of my time, my two months in yuma. it is after i had taken a four-day break,, which shows the privilege things i could do that other people couldn't do. it was either that or i was going to have to quit. today should be easy. i am rested, my fingers are opening properly and i can walk without the soles of my feet hurting. i met dole office waiting for the bus to come in the sun to rise. with two strong cups of coffee in my system i feel strong, healthy, recuperated that no matter. turns out to be the hardest day of my brief career in let us. we are working in a field 90 minutes east of yuma. after my two-day absence a number of people are surprised to see me again. i thought the lettuce kill view he said patting me on the back. it almost killed me on friday. turns out i chose my vacation wisely as the crew worked well into evening on the today
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zionist. the. the first notable difference is for the first time i am seeing bugs in the field. when i asked pedro, the foreman, about the complete absence of insects he responded by praising the very good fumigation. i suppose this was true if by good one meant effective in killing all life except that necessary to grow let us but i was glad to finally see black critters clinging to the heads of let us and wandering in the dirt. it was unnerving in the field with zero bug life and for farmworkers the very good fumigation can be very dangerous. each year between 10 to 20,000 farmworkers are likely much higher. as many workers never visit physicians. along with being a geek, the field is wet so instead of firm third i'm sliding around in mud. i can handle this but there is a new challenge. the lettuce is soaked. which time i race ahead of let
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us and trim off the leaves i get a face full of cold water. within the first hour my hands, the hand that believed were completely recovered, feel weaker than ever. i've seen placing let us on the ground and starting to wonder what is wrong with me. i have been doing this for two months, i just had four days off and i still can't keep up? exhausted by the where the break is 30 minutes away i make a drastic decision. after checking to make sure pedro isn't looking to forget about trimming or bagging the lettuce. instead i cut the stem, slice through the head three or four times, drop the remnants between two rows in nonchalantly crush them with my feet as they move forward. is a quaker and takes much less energy. julio, working to my right, sees my new trick and dubs me the lettuce assassin. during the break i am a wreck. i make no attempt to socialize and find a patch of dirt to lie away from the group. by the end of the day to day filled with pedro cajoling me
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and often taking my knife and helping me i'm not attempting to do two rows. luckily julio to my rights doesn't seem to be having any problems handling three rows. there is something seriously wrong with this man. don't worry gabriel i'm helping you. three rows, no problem. and between his encouragement he'd left the house at three m.. we got up at 2:00 to get ready. it was completely dark outside. i feel like i'm going to vomit from exhaustion. is a passive nearly out of audie experience. i don't vilsack but it seems every ounce of energy is being sucked from my body to release whatever it is in my stomach. i keeled over a few times but nothing came out. if i could muster the energy i would feel relieved. retract back to the bus and hop in. for a few minutes the crew is likely but as we near the highway the bus goes silent. i am sharing a seat with a
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sleepy gloria and i turn around to see everyone is driving and has a christian rock cd cranking on the stereo is unconscious as if someone flipped a switch on the cruise power. even julio is out, collapsed against a beanie pulled over his eyes. when we get to the dole office he drops me off of my car and continued sue the border. i get home after 7:00 p.m. having been away 14 hours. making dinner i realize that day i survived was exactly what my coworkers have been going through all season now their work is even longer. today they left at 3:00 a.m. and will return sometime after 8:00 p.m.. the next day, we worked just as long. i feel that the entire day. even my hands of a much better grip on the knife in let us. it is counterintuitive but after talking with several coworkers who have had similar experiences i come up with a theory. early in the season, say after the first week, a farmworkers body is thoroughly broken down.
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legs and arms are sore, hands and feet swell up. eventually the tolerance of pain has developed. the shark acus dull but don't disappear. the weekend is just enough time for the body to recover from much, but not so much that it actually starts to mend. my four day break was too long and my body began to recuperate and i wanted more time to continue. instead it was thrown back into the mix and rebel but the next day i am back to normal. my belief in the theory will grow stronger once i understand how much time my i body needs to recover. it takes two weeks until i feel comfortable shaking someone's hand and a month before the numbness in my foot disappears. we have for visitors today from the government and they check we are following the proper food safety procedures. it is a good thing we get a heads-up about their visit two hours before they arrive for dole would have to-- during each break we stuff our gloves in the packet of bags hanging from our
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belts. you can't do that anymore pedro says explaining we must now layer of some machine. he is definitely nervous. rechecks make sure everyone is wearing their hair nets. he tells us to make sure to eat our lunch away from the lettuce that hasn't been harvested. after reminding us about the loves for a third time pedro goes in the machine to talk to the loaders. as i am cutting i look at a coworker who is chomping on a piece of let us. pieces of the lettuce are or falling from his mouth. during breaks we are not supposed to eat near let us that has not yet been cut and we are definitely not supposed to eat over the lettuce and dribble remnants of produce purchased by customers. [speaking in spanish] don't eat, quietly enough so pedro won't hear. the government is coming, remember? we passed with flying colors. by the end of my yuma, i was feeling a little bit
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nostalgic about it, which is strange because the work is so exhausting that you get in this rhythm at least for me. the big difference between me and everyone in my crew, everyone in my crew were mexicans and they had families. they would come home from work and deal with feeding their kids in reading stories and helping them with homework. i had no life in yuma because i didn't know anyone in yuma besides my coworkers. so i was able to just pass up by 8:00 p.m. and live kind of a spartan existence of wake up, lettuce, come home and fall asleep. and it was always amazing to me that the folks i was working with were maintaining these full lives. but, the other piece i think of why i enjoyed the lettuce was that when you are on a crew up 30 people, the crew stays the same, and there is a real sense of getting to know
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personalities. because everyone is making the same amount, which is $8.37 an hour, there is a solidarity and helping out because no one is trying to advance and also having worked in offices before, where i think we all, at least i understand how complicated office dynamics can be. one e-mail taken the wrong way and suddenly someone is up in the hair and a week later there is a fistfight or something. we just didn't have the same kind of energy to worry about this stuff because we were also tired. so i was not nostalgic until the last two days when i think we harvested 35 tons a day. on any given day you could, each cutter could bend down and cut a bag more than 3000 heads in a shift, so that kind of beats the nostalgia right out of me. by the end i was ready to go. when i finished lettuce, i
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decided that i wanted to work in poultry. at a poultry plant, and again, excited sounds like the wrong word but it was. i was excited to work in a poultry plant even though i've been in vegetarian since grade school just because it seemed like this macabre vaccination. and i know it reflects a little bit of the weirdness i find that fun, but the other reason i really thought poultry work would be great is that towns in the south, all these anonymous towns in the u.s. south are being rapidly transformed by latino immigrants and they are coming in because there are all these jobs available in things like carpet factories, poultry plans. i thought it would be a great way to not only write about poultry work, but also be able to write a little bit about how the town that i chose which is a
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town called russellville, has or hasn't been adapting to the newest arrivals. russellville was-- i was out of place in arizona because i was the only white person in the fields but i was equally out of place and in russellville because i don't have a southern accent at all. i am not particularly conservative and russellville is a dry county so you can't even get alcohol there, which when i was spending the summer there, which was troubling for me, once i realized that. [laughter] and, i think in some ways i was viewed a little bit as a freak. i didn't have a car so i arrived in russellville which was very rural, way out the middle of nowhere. people would see me biking around and in russellville bikes were for kids and this just seemed odd. but, it seemed seems like a wonderful chance to dive into
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not just the work but the ways in which-- russellville seem like a microcosm of what was happening across the south. so, i left let us. at thought it would be the most physically tiring and it was but i discovered the poultry plant work in some ways was, it wasn't quite as physically demanding but in terms of the depressing nature of the work, let us work very skilled. two months i was barely keeping up in poultry plant is so de- skilled. one of the reasons it is owed these fields is because they know they are going to have such a high turnover, that if anyone of you came off the street and went into a poultry plant they would give you a task for five minutes and most of the tasks you would be bored because they need people to be interchangeable. one week they hired 150 new people at the plant which is one
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tenth of the workforce and that week 175 people quick. this section about my time-- and let me say a little bit about the workforce there. the guatemalans i was working with had fled civil war in guatemala in the 80's by and large and moved to florida to pick tomatoes which is incredibly punishing work. then they came to do poultry plant work which was indoors and year-round, so so for them it was like a step up compared to where the family members were killed in guatemala. they had done crazy work in florida, so they were sort of stepping stones. they didn't want their kids to work in a plant that this was the way their kids would eventually get to college. then you have the local residents who grew up in russellville, who had not left very often and who were in many ways much more eaten down than
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the immigrants. i think it might've been a little bit about, the immigrants had a different, had different perspectives based on where they were coming from. they had a sense that they were pushing ahead all the time and a lot of the locals i got to know felt like they had been stagnating for a long time, going back and forth between walmart and the poultry plant. there is not much else out there. but, so this section hears about my first real experience in the monotony of chicken plant work. which is almost the first line here. i get a first taste of true line work monotony the following evening when i am told to stand dsi. since psi deals direct it with fresh chicken meat, unlike iq f. in the combo department-- bares all these acronyms that no one ever explains. i never actually knew what they were. [laughter] for the first time put on the
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standard plant u-uniform a cheap plastic smock no thicker than a piece of paper, a pair of cotton gloves under a pair of plastic once in a white hairnet. at this point dsi remains a mystery. i don't know what acronym stands for what it does. i do see two parallel to each other with worker standing on either side. since keeping workers totally in the dark seems to be part of the business model at pilgrim's pride i'm not surprised when he tells me to follow her with the explanation. weekly for 20 or so dsi workers and walk up a platform or another short belt runs. i'm now standing above the workers. you blank, blank blank a4? there are words in between i can hear. i pull out my earplugs in the noise of the plant rushes in. what is that, i shout? i said did you ever cared chicken? she is now shouting. not really. okay, good. stay here and when they come by
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tear them in half. >> tear them in half with my hands? >> i turn turnaround in time to see her walking away and put the plugs that in. this should be interesting. i stand at the perch waiting for the chicken. from this angle i have a few of the plan for looking out on dsi and-- that it is too complex to make sense. i realize while workers are slaving away on the ground a system of machinery is turning above us. i'm reminded of the plastic marble set in which he placed the marble in follow its progress along the circuitous path until it eventually lands at the bottom. rare for a look i see me flying off belts, spinning around dropping from one moving plane to another. what is going on, gabriel? kyle was on the steps wearing his alabama sweatshirt. i lived in a trailer next to the plant and he lived in a trailer a few trailers down. i've been there for two months
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and he had been there since it grandfather, his grandfather's original and. looks like we are fixing to be partners. do you know what we are doing here? chicken breast. you tear them in half and i put them in boxes. justice kyle takes a position, the first breast began begin dropping from the belt. they land on another belt and travel directly pass my station. their breasts are pink, slippery heart-shaped and larger than i expected. here's a footnote. industrial chickens i later learned are selectively bred to develop out diced breast. the artificial pancreas profitable for companies like pogroms pride, less so for the chickens. alone was suffering from broken leg said are unable to support their physiques, many chickens have lungs and hearts they can't keep pace with the growth of their breasts and a the bird succumbed to heart failure. it sounds like a freakish event, chickens failed by heart attack but every year millions of birds perish or cicely this way before reaching slaughter weight.
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heart attacks become so prevalent the industry has created a euphemistic name, flip over syndrome. the syndrome was unknown among non-factory farmed chickens. back to the main text. their breasts are pink, slippery heart-shaped and larger than i expected. a line of alina sinew connects the halves of the breast which is what kyle says you must tear through. others are stubborn and take a second effort to separate. for these i need my fingers and thumbs and yanked hard. some in fact are connected so strongly that i tear right through the breast muscle. tonight the whole breast don't give up much of a smile but each time i tear through the dense muscle and nauseating with a meat is released. for a few minutes by vegetarian south is aware this task is pretty gross. a number of the breasts are coated in quite related purple blood. others have a film covering the
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muscle that makes the meat hard to hold and if you go squirting out of my hands onto the cement laura. the fad is white and jeni simply be confused with scrambled eggs. when i tear the press pieces of that come flying at me and within minutes they cover my blue smock. other pieces sail into my face. as disgusting as this is it doesn't take much time for a routine to set in. within an hour i torn the breast of nearly 1000 birds that were recently slaughtered by no longer even thinking about chicken. i am bored, my wrists are beginning to hurt and might times are locking up. this i shouted over to kyle. p. grants. welcome to pilgrim's pride. breasts have been dropping from above one at a time. now entire groups are tumbling down. full breasts are getting passed to me so i used my right arm to drag past, back in tax breast. of course the time i spend
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dragging them back as time i am not tearing them and it is not long before i have a massive collection of breasts in front of me that i am essentially hugging. if you tumble off the line and landed my feet. it was absolutely not funny at the time. [laughter] i kicked him to the ground. as i am wondering what to do a woman walks wide by wearing a hairnet of an assistant supervisor. hey we could use a more help i shout. she turns to me. what? we could use some help. i can't keep up. she gives a faint nod to keep squawking. just lets him go kyle says. screw it if we can't get them all. that sounds like a good idea. removed the barricade and kyle lets hundreds of old breasts fly past him and into the boxes which will be delivered to customers whole instead of divided. we flip the number boxes before the pace slows and i'm able to regain my rhythm. i glance around furtively
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waiting for an outright supervisor but no one is watching. hanging from the drake room wall is a framed document reminding us-- let me back up. the break room wall-- they have three walls. one has these corporate slogans like you can do it and stuff. another one is a bunch of junk food and the third one is painkillers. every different kind of painkiller you could have because in the orientation they tell you you are going to need to be taking painkillers every four hours because your hands are not used to making 15,000 cuts in a single shift. so this deals with the corporate slogans. hanging from the break room wall is a framed document reminding us of the three cornerstones of improvement, quality, process improvement and teamwork. out here in the world of the processing floor kyle and i have just demonstrated teamwork in order to reach a process of
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improvement that is completely undermining quality. when you are working in a plant that can slaughter process more than 250,000 chickens a day quality does not stand a chance. we work until 1:45:00 a.m.. due to the den to the machinery barbour communicates it's break time by holding both hands in front of him murder chest and mining-- kyle and i discard or smocks which are covered in chicken mc and toss them in the trash. as a result of my mind roaming, i've come to the conclusion that breasts resemble nothing so much as the rear ends of newborn babies. this is my insight for the day. later i moved to a different line doing the same work next to a woman who has been added for four months. as we cared breasts i share this observation. her response, you have something wrong in your head. after a few minutes of silently tearing brushy comes around. it does kind of. [laughter] the of a white day be.
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[laughter] i have to say one of the striking things about the chicken plant work was just how -- when people met me, they are curious because i was clearly a yankee as they would call me and, we were blown away. i think they thought i was 17 or so, 18. i might look younger now because they shape for for this and i normally don't shave. i don't think i ever look like a recent high school graduate but i think what was going on is that people that do this work for a while age very quickly. one of my coworkers said making the night-- working the night shift makes you old quick. that is really true. you think about all the benefits that people like me have, not
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having to do this work day in and day out. it struck me in my time in the chicken plant, the greatest benefit is that the jobs i am doing are not making me old quick. you will see someone who is in their 40s, missing most of their teeth and i wouldn't assume they are in their late 60s and don't much-- have much time left. than you realize this guy is 39 or 40. it is a grinding poverty. many people don't have bank accounts because they don't have money to put them in. that is an eye-opening experience for me to write about immigrant work and finding working side-by-side with immigrants are some the poor americans who have a lot more in common with the undocumented immigrants than they do with almost anyone else. they are owed totally ignored in some speeches by some politicians.
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i think it leads to kind of two of the things that i took away. there are many things i took away. one, just how privileged people are, like i am, to have work where i can in some ways do creative things or even come home for a noncreative job and have energy to read a book or two right. i had this idea when i was doing this project, as i was working, i would come home and get a lot of work done. that very quickly, i was disabused of that notion because you just didn't have the stamina i was reading a wider feet by john steinbeck and he was talking about he thought he would dig ditches and do manual labor. then when he was done doing that he would right. he had to give that up because the hard manual later-- labor left him with no energy to pursue things he was also interested in. the other really fascinating thing for me about the work and
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the time in russellville alabama in particular is, one of the reasons i chose russellville is because there had been some news stories about that seem to suggest there were terrible relations with the new guatemalan and mexican immigrant longtime locals. exhibit a number one is there was a kkk marched through downtown in 2006 and it seemed like one of those rare kkk marches where there were supporters that outnumber the protesters. so when i showed up there i was expecting to find a lot of animosity between, or at least some animosity between the groups. i just didn't find it. i would hear people in grocery stores make comments about anger about maybe cereal boxes for things like that. i am sure you hear that in
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arizona. i hear that in california, here in new york. i didn't hear anything particularly anti-immigrant in a way that was unique. and i think one of the reasons that i didn't find that was on the shop floor, on the processing plant floor, i never heard anyone mention this idea that people, their jobs were being taken away by immigrants. i showed up out of nowhere and within a week i had a job. the real problem was surviving the work. that was a problem for immigrants and it was a problem for american citizens. and it has been a problem for a long time in history. that there is a real sense of sort of when you are working side-by-side with people not only do you have a common ending which is a supervisor telling you to work faster and doesn't show any sympathy to the situation people are in, but
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just the fact that you are with someone for eight or nine hours a day and it may only be as superficial as sharing curse words are sharing food on rake floors but you really would see some boundaries being broken down. the way i came to think of it eventually was that the locals that i got to know who grew up in alabama, many of them looked at the immigrants is sort of how i would think about in grade school or high school when you have a foreign exchange student that shows up from a country that no one knows. they called all the guatemalans mexicans. and this sort of curiosity, but not too much hostility. sort of natural curiosity about what was going on in how do they work so hard? they are very small but seemed to carry all of this weight and stuff. that was really promising to me. the other piece was just how much each job from lettuce to the chicken plant in new york
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city. when i came back i worked for two days in an area called the flower district which i thought would be a great job, like a mom-and-pop shop. it turned out to be like a sweatshop in plain sight, where they are constantly brushing it from the minute you walk in and fired me after two days. and then doing food delivery work by bike in manhattan. because it is so, it is such a dense city, there is a huge industry of people that ride bikes and bring food to usually wealthy people. it is a very dangerous job because you are winding in and out of crazy traffic and generally in the grants are paid $2 an hour. you are in the snow so it is a really rough job but even in that job you have this sort of natural-- people would welcome you into the job and would always cover for people. they would really help each other out so having it background in labor organizing,
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that sort of natural salivary-- solidarity that i saw in breaking down their ears that i thought would not do so easy to break down was really promising. so, that is my spiel for now. and i definitely welcome any questions as long as you follow the protocol, whatever the protocol is. [laughter] >> did you have any problems in getting companies to let you use their name in your book? steve not really because i never asked them. i never told, i never told the company what i was doing. because they knew as soon as i told them, they would say no or they would have some really weird arrangement. gal we love you to do this and they journalist and we will have you off in the corner and we
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will have a work work or come by every 10 minutes and say, this is great company and you can write that down. so i really wanted to have-- i didn't want to know what it was like to be at journalist being manage through these jobs. and i also just didn't think they would go for it. i sort of got, was proven right by that at the chicken plant through my own sloppiness. i was working in the slaughterhouse but i wanted to also see how the chickens were being grown all around because they spend six or seven or eight weeks or so and then they get to the plant and then they are killed. i wanted to know what it was like in these farms where they were being grown. and i reveal too much information about week five and a half to a farmer about what i was doing. that farmer called the plant of that plant realized i had spent over a month working there and
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they went on my web site and bought my books and called me in and said, like, you are fired. and if you had come to us earlier we could have try to work something out the cozy-- which is totally false. because i was fired anyway. they are all very curious about, and i think each of the jobs, especially the bigger ones, who i list, i think they have already through the book and if there was anything they caught thought they could sue me for, that would be right about now that they would the preparing it i am pretty sure-- i feel like there was pretty careful about the reporting. it is difficult to report on the story where you can actually ever be reporting in real time, so i have little ways, whenever
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i could take off i would go into the bathroom and write in a notebook. one grade thing is danielle, my wife was in honduras when i was in alabama and i was just learning text messaging which is very late to be learning text messaging but i cell phone this is big thing that has an antenna that pops up. so what i would do during breaks, i would text message notes to myself and my coworkers assumed i was text messaging my wife in the honduras. but buckeye which is but little, what just happened in little snippets. so, that sort of i think helped out. but, someone asked me, did i feel like unethical about it? not at all. i think it is the only way to get access to these stories and to get to these people. the ethical thing for me was always-- i have written about
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immigrants before in a much less first-person about following people and i never gotten any sort of like the media response from this book. i was totally surpassed anything i've ever done before. i don't think it is an accident because it is a story about a white guy doing it, you know. and so i think feel the ethical thing for me or the very tricky part is to } that what i did, to spend two months in the lettuce fields is not an earth shattering experience. people do this for 15 or 20 years and nobody knows about them so i try to, as much as it is a first-person book, to also try to bring the experiences of the workers to the forefront, and to underline that it seems like a really great project to me but in the grand scheme of
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things it pales in comparison to the work that has been going on for so long or go co-that was my biggest sort of discomfort with the book. >> what will come out of this story getting out? anything? >> well, it is, like, i don't have faith or at least i don't have faith in my ability to write a policy piece that will convince people that are on the fence about how people view immigration. to have statistics and be like it is this, that and the other thing and it is also not something i feel i am very good at. what i would hope is just that it fills in the sort of back story in which we are all very involved than, involved in and very reliant on and makes very
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clear the connections between the hard work that is being done all over the place in the way in which we are deeply connected to it. so, when you go and buy a head of lettuce in the story and you grab it, usually the last person that has touched it is a farmworker who harvested it. in some ways i guess i would like to reveal and open up ways in which maybe some people would have to reevaluate their role that immigrants play in the country, and i don't know. i feel like a little while ago i was much more optimistic about that, but i think there are people that can be reached that way but there are also people who, if white like i think is important, there are people that you are just going to have to
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run over. like they have a very different view. it is not like it is a new phenomenon. it inc. americans have always been-- if you look at surveys of americans views on in the rents, pretty much decade after decade the only consistency is that americans have very generally put a high value and think highly of immigrants who came before, and they feel like the immigrants that are coming currently, whatever kind of survey is being taken, are very different and much more problematic. it is like a 50s in the 60s. so we are always uncomfortable i think with the immigrants that are currently arriving. so, in a perfect world i would hope some people would read this book not having bought too much about immigrants but thinking they have an easy life and they are on welfare. we can't let them become legal
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residents because they have to earn it and stuff. one thing i came away from this is realizing how much immigrants have earned already, you know. the kind of work that people have been doing and the hardships they have been putting up with. i feel like, to talk about the need to earn their citizenship, i feel like a lot of people have , you know. and then i like to sell a lot of books. [laughter] you first. >> have you stayed in contact with any of the people that you met during your time? >> it has been easier to stay in contact with people i met in alabama, because this cell phones are u.s. cell phones. the workers that i worked with in yuma, most of them came across the border in a lot of them had guest worker visa so i
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had a hard time getting in contact with them because their cell phones were in mexico. in two days i will be doing a book event in yuma, which is where i went, so i talked to the h.r. person in yuma about trying to get as many of my coworkers as possible at the book event. it is in english and hopefully it will be in spanish at some point but at least there are a lot of photos of them and i think they will get a kick out of seeing it. so, as much as i could, and there is the spanish-speaking workers in alabama that i worked with, not just the workers but i always in most towns i found people who become great support systems. in alabama though, the librarian, she considered herself, she had the most liberal library in the state of alabama, within one of the most conservative areas. i really loved it.
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i would hang out in the library with her. it had air-conditioning and she let me check out his many books as i wanted. but she would talk to me about how one of the big issues about keeping a library that was sent overtly-- that wasn't just one issue, was everyone would come in and bring inspirational fiction, which is like christian fiction i guess and tons of books about christianity. it was kind of overwhelming her collection. she said we love all of those books but to have balance, we also need to bring a book about judaism or islam. that really dried up. there were these characters that i enjoy connecting with that i have stayed in touch with that have since-- even the pr guy who fired me. i actually really liked him. he was sort of acting on orders from above, and we have this really fun firing experience where we sat for a half-hour and
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he told me that he had already ordered my books and he read my articles. what i realize what is h.r. folks at a poultry plant have a lot of similarities between the people that work at poultry plants on the floor. their job is totally monotonous. they are constantly trying to fill slots. when i was there, they were running 45 orientations a week to keep the workforce up, because everyone was dropping out so fast. there are people that have kept in touch with. i really looked forward to, it would be great if i see a bunch of people in yuma. >> were there a lot of injuries in the jobs? >> yeah. i think the injuries in the bicycle delivery work, at any
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time you go out you could be hit via car or something. generally, the way the work situation was, they workers were almost all undocumented. if they got hurt, they would just kind of limp to the hospital and get no assistance from their bosses. and then they would go find another job. so at any given moment there was more. in the chicken plant work, the danger was repetitive stress work. so, if you imagine there are dirty chickens flying by you and each chicken you have to make a certain cut with a knife, a sharp knife. and, sometimes you do that 18,000 times in a shift. so, it is just not something your body with me to do. you will very quickly have very serious injuries in your wrist and your fingers, carpal tunnel.
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one of the women i interviewed, she had had her thumb joint, and also a lot of older people. it is 40 degrees in these this plan so if you have arthritis, your hands-- one of the things i realized was how important your hands are. lettuce, chicken, when your hands are sore, it is very hard to feel comfortable doing anything from sleeping, from saying hello, so one of the people i interviewed, she had left the chicken plant because her thumb joint had been completely worn down. there was not much of a joint there so he had taken a gristle or a long vein and wrapped it around the thumb joint to create , to create this pseudo- thumb joint. when i talk to her, she wasn't working there. she was like in her 60s, and she said she was never going to go back because the doctor said
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it would be terrible. i kept calling her and she would not return my phonecalls, so i called another friend of mine kyle, who knew her and she said he is not calling her back -- not calling you back. she did not want to get in trouble, which i think kind of shows how few options there were for that work. or for any kind of work. she needed work, she needed to pay bills and chicken plant work was what she knew and they paid the best of anything around there. >> was there a difference in the kind of camaraderie from one group to another? where there was a different racial composition etc., did you notice a big difference? >> i don't know if it was so much their race, but i feel like the real big piece about why lettuce had so much better
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camaraderie was just the fact that we had a crew that work together constantly, and for two months, you get to know each other and you are outside, which played a really big psychological difference. you could talk while you were working and we would have a spanish radio blasting. people would joke around a lot. all those sorts of little things that make a job a little bit less depressing were impossible to do in the chicken plant because it was cold,-- lettuce s repetitive but it is also skilled work so you are focusing a lot on the work. in the chicken plant teachers couldn't communicate very much with people based on the fact that you have earplugs and you can here and it is called. you are standing in one place doing this, separating chicken breast, so for two and a half hours, never looked to the left
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or right. it becomes a different sort of job. i think if you had a diverse workforce that was doing lettuce, think they would get along pretty well. i think it was mostly just the way-- it is hard to imagine the brain, the human brain is so complicated. it is an incredible organ. you have people's been their waking hours doing one repetitive motion over and over again, it does weird things to you. >> did you ever receive any promotions in these jobs that you did? >> they attempted to. knee and i had always turned down their promotion because it wasn't like what i wanted to do. when i walked into dole, the first thing they told me was, he don't want to do the farm work, but we would really like-- we
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need a bilingual driver and you would make a lot our money, which is not what i wanted to do. i said no, i really want to be in the fields. the second time i watch and the plan, they said you can make a lot our money working inside. i got to promotions just for showing up that i had to turn down. in the chicken, no. chicken is very-- the only promotion is you can go into the life killing and hanging field which is where you get two bucks more in our and you are helping to kill the chickens. she told me they didn't have any openings at that point and i was like, that is okay, you know. [laughter]
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